New York – On May 9, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision in favor of Raphael Bigio, Bahia Bigio, Ferial Salma Bigio, and B. Bigio & Co. — three members of an Egyptian Jewish family and a company they control. The Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) Center for Law and Justice had filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief supporting the Bigios in their lawsuit against the Coca-Cola Company.
The Bigios owned land and factories in Egypt, which were stolen from them in the 1960’s by the Egyptian government, with no compensation to the Bigios whatsoever. This was done during the Nasser regime, simply because the Bigios were Jewish. Eventually, the Egyptian government ordered that the property be returned to the Bigios, but the state-owned entity holding the property refused to comply. The Bigios’ property was transferred to an entity in which the Coca-Cola Company has a substantial interest, again with no compensation to the Bigios. Coca-Cola knew when it obtained that interest that the property had been wrongfully taken from the Bigios; Coca-Cola had been a tenant of the Bigios. But Coca-Cola refused to compensate the Bigios for the wrongful loss of their property.
Unable to obtain relief in the Egyptian courts, the Bigios sued the Coca-Cola
Company in a New York federal district court. The district court dismissed their lawsuit. Although the court decided that it had jurisdiction over the case, it concluded that the case should be heard in Egypt.
On the Bigios’ appeal of the district court’s decision, they asked the ZOA to submit an amicus brief on their behalf, showing that anti-Semitism is so deeply embedded in Egyptian society, and is still rampant today, that the Bigios’ claims could not be decided fairly and impartially in Egypt. The American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists fully supported the ZOA’s position, which is reflected in the ZOA’s brief. The Decalogue Society of Lawyers, a bar association of Jewish judges and lawyers in the Chicago area, also strongly supported the ZOA’s position and asked the Court of Appeals for permission to join in the ZOA’s amicus brief.
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the district court’s decision to dismiss the Bigios’ case, and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. As between Coca-Cola’s preference for a court in Egypt and the Bigios’ choice of an American court, the Court of Appeals decided that the Bigios were entitled to have an American court decide their claims against Coca-Cola.
The ZOA applauds the Court of Appeals’ decision and congratulates the Bigios on their victory. Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, noted, “We couldn’t be more pleased with the Second Circuit’s ruling and are proud to have played a part in it. The Bigios will finally have their claims decided by a fair and impartial American court. And Coca-Cola, an American company, will finally have to answer for its shameful conduct of reaping the benefits from the property of an Egyptian Jewish family without compensating them.”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We are proud of the work that Susan Tuchman has done in this case. It’s a major achievement on the road to getting the Bigios the compensation they deserve. The ZOA will always be there to fight for Jews, whether on the campus, in Washington, D.C., in the media, or in the courts.”